Extra support for operators is needed to help keep them afloat and address inequalities in care provision.
During a panel debate at the Virtual Care Festival this week, the chief executive of the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) Jane Townson said inadequate fee rates were leading to increasing inequality.
She told delegates, UKHCA data showed councils with the highest levels of deprivation were receiving some of the lowest fee rates even though they had greater need. ‘If the government is serious about levelling up we need to ensure that these inequalities are addressed and money is pumped in to keep everybody afloat,’ she said during the discussion titled ‘Time for change – the long-term reform for homecare’.
Fellow panellist Omar Idriss, senior economist at the Health Foundation, said an extra £5bn per year was needed in the care sector to meet increased demand and for councils to pay adequate fees to operators. On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said councils would have access to an extra £1bn of funding.
Last week, research for the BBC found a quarter of homecare businesses in the UK were in danger of closing, with the sector having debts of more than £100m.
Townson expressed concern that directors of adult social services could struggle to meet their statutory requirements, with unmet need ‘bubbling up under the surface’.
During the one-hour discussion, she called for an ‘overarching vision’ to reform social care that involved more people deciding on how and where they were going to be supported.
Emily Holzhausen, Carers UK director of policy and public affairs, who also sat on the panel, said a workforce strategy for the sector needed to be published within the next 12 months. On reform, she told the audience: ‘I just don’t think the deadlines can be shoved further and further.
‘We need movement…and we need some plans on the table.’